Checking In

Long-distance parenting during a crisis?  Not my cup of tea.

Long-distance parenting during a crisis? Not my cup of tea.

“Mamá?” Laura’s voice quavered slightly when she answered the phone. “I hope you’re not mad, but the police came by the house today and –“

“What?! The police? What for?” Shock and outrage flew through the line. I tried to modulate my voice by the second question.

“At first I thought he stopped because I had the stereo turned up.”

“Oh?” I tried to encourage her with a neutral voice. Loud music at our house, now that’s an understatement. Who can blame a ten-year-old for blasting music when her father does it on a regular basis? In fact, I couldn’t wait for them to have some teenage rebellion and deliberately annoy their father by playing soft music—Del Delker ought to drive him over the edge.

“When someone knocked on the door,” Laura continued, “I peeked out the window to see who it was. I could see the cop car, so I turned down the music and ran to hide in the closet.”

“You didn’t need to hide, Sweetie,” I assured her. Police officers are our friends!” Phone parenting doesn’t allow for the context. What expression did Laura have on her face? What did her body language reveal? Was she really afraid of police officers?

“Yeah, I know.” She sounded sheepish. “That’s why I finally answered the door.”

“What did he want?”

“He wanted to know if the people with the Washington license plates were here.”

Great. My mom and dad were probably still at school when the officer arrived…I can see the headlines now, “Teacher Jailed for Child Neglect!

“What happened next?” I held my breath, wondering how I’d make bail.

“Mor mor came into the living room.”

“So what did the officer want?”

“I dunno. I had to go do my homework.”

“I’m sure it was nothing big. Everything else o.k.?”

“Yeah. I miss you. How’s Papá? When are you coming home?”

“I miss you, too. He’s doing great—gained a pound since yesterday. I’m not sure, we’re still waiting on the stem-cell harvest numbers from this morning.”

“Oh. You wanna talk to Mor mor?”

“Sure. I love you!”

“Hello?” My mom’s voice came through the earpiece.

“Hey! What’s this I hear about police?”

“Yeah, the sheriff stopped by today.”

“Because?” Why couldn’t someone blurt the story out? My sense of panic had calmed a little, but I still needed to know what happened.

“Oh, that lady down the street that complains about everyone at the school keeps calling the sheriff’s office because we don’t have Montana plates on our car.”

“You’ve got to be kidding!”

“Turns out she used to work at the DMV, and her pet peeve is people who don’t register their vehicles for the state in which they work.”

“Does confusion count?” I joked.

“Poppy explained to the officer that Mrs. Myler had already spoken to him, he’d explained to her that the rules state that one doesn’t need to register one’s vehicle if one is in the state for less than three months, and leaves for a least a week.” Her voice sounded tired.

“Glad Poppy was able to quote that statistic for him. How are you feeling?”

“I’m fighting a bug. Now I know why women have children when they’re young,” she said. “I need to go make supper. Would you like to talk to Sarah?”

“I hope you feel better soon! Thank you for all you do and yes, I’d love to talk to Sarah.”

“Mamá!” Sarah’s voice was music to my ears. I could tell, just by the way she said my name, that things were going well.

“How’s it going, Baby?” I asked. “Did you do anything fun at school today?”

“We had art class!” Sarah enthused, and launched into a detailed description of what she’d drawn. I listened, while making a mental list of all I needed to do if we should have to stay a few more nights for stem-cell harvesting. “…is it ok if Poppy cut up one of our hangers?”

“Poppy had to cut up a hanger? What for?” I really needed to listen more carefully.

“I dunno.” I could hear and see Sarah’s shrug. “I have to set the table for Mor mor, it’s almost time to eat. I love you!”

“I love you, too, Baby. Is Poppy around?”

“Here. Oops!” I could hear Sarah in the back ground as the phone dropped to the floor.

“Dad?” My voice went out in space.

“Hey, Jay-baby,” my dad answered. Good, the phone still operated.

“How was class today?”

“The kids are doing fine. Everyone’s found a novel to read, and they are making vocabulary lists and just working away.”

“Thanks for taking my classes for me, Dad. I hope my lesson plans aren’t too confusing! So, why did you need to cut up a hanger?”

“The police officer asked for one.”

“What?!” Always back to that officer. Would I ever get the entire story?

“Yeah, he stopped by because Mrs. Myler keeps bugging them about our license plates.”

“Mom mentioned that.”

“When we finished our discussion, he went out to his cruiser and came right back to the door. Evidently he locked his keys inside.”

“No way!”

“I asked him if he’d like to borrow a phone, and he said he’d prefer a hanger since he didn’t want anyone back at the office to know what had happened.”

“I can understand why!” I laughed. “How embarrassing!”

“And cold,” Dad added. “It was about twenty below.”

“Gotta love the weather up there!”

“I took him a coat and some gloves after ten minutes. He was having a hard time breaking in to his cruiser.”

“Seriously? The poor guy. Did that help?”

Dad chuckled. “I let him stew another ten before I went out and offered to help him.”

“You broke into a police cruiser? How long did that take?”

“Sixty seconds.”

“Great, Dad! Now you’ll really have a reputation in Bozeman. Not just the guy with the illicit license plates, but an auto thief as well!”

“Nah,” Dad laughed outright. “That’s one story that won’t go past the officer’s lips! He’d never live that one down.”

“True, true.” I added, “Maybe that will keep the cops at bay!” Our conversation ended with a laugh, and I shook my head. Checking in was so hard…maybe I should try an asylum?

Today I’m linking up with Kirsten Oliphant’s group that meets each week to tell their Not So (Small) Stories. In this fifth edition, the prompt is ‘Word. Speech. Language’ and the goal is to develop our voice. If you’d like to join us, the link is here (the link up is open until Thursday evening).